Post Card from Yao Kou Village, China

By Sophia Yee, columnist

Our car circling around mountain roads, we were in awe at the passing sights; after about two hours of driving through small villages we finally came to the remote village of Yau Kou (窈口) in the deep mountains. About 100 kilometers from the city of Hangzhou, Yao Kou village is situated in the far west of the town of Fuyang (富阳).

Yao Kou has 430 families and total of about 1200 people living here. The village is surrounded by mountains and clear water from the mountains passes through an ancient stone water channel into the village and forms a big clear lake at the foot of the mountain. The village has 562 acres of flat land and 15480 acres of hillside and produces rice, sweet potatoes, soybeans and all kinds of vegetables. Bamboo trees grow delicious bamboo shoots and there are chestnut trees, persimmon trees and almost every family raises free range chickens, pigs, goats, ducks, and so on.

My sister and I rented a room with two single beds with a shower room, a TV set, air conditioning unit and a balcony facing a mountain view. The room cost 75 Yen ($12 US ) per person per night and included three meals of our own choice of dishes. We were so thrilled to have this arrangement to our liking. We could also pick fresh vegetables from their gardens and we had a freshly killed chicken for dinner ( No, we didn’t kill the chicken ourselves !). We had fish of the day from the local streams for lunch and sweet rice dumplings, fresh eggs and squash cakes for breakfast. At daytime we hiked to nearby hills to gather some bamboo leaves for next day use or just to enjoy the scenery in the surrounding area.

We visited a historical house which belonged to the Pan Tongwen family; built in the Qing dynasty era in 1795. Consisting of eight entrances, a deep long hallway with high white walls and black tile roofs and the roof corners swung upward in the fashionable look of the era and so as for the power and luck of the occupancy of the time. Now the house is used for tool storages and some sections are divided up for single elderly people to use as living spaces.

People here live in-between the old fashioned and the interaction of a modern life style; in one hand they live as the ancestors did planting rice, vegetables and raising their domestic animals and so on yet, on the other hand they are well connected with new technologies as half of the families have tourist lodging rooms for rent and almost everyone has cell-phones, TV at home, refrigerators, air conditioners and cars. Many of the young people here today study overseas in countries like America, England, Japan or Korea. A middle-aged couple owns the place my sister and I rent; their son is studying in a private school in Hangzhou and learns English and speaks English very well according to the couple and will soon come to America to study.

The next day I paid a special visit to an old couple next door. They are about eighty years old. The husband rebuild his own house not too long ago; a beautiful wooden structured interior with high ceilings and spacious rooms. He told me that at a certain month of the year to cut down trees for building a house the wood will never corrode and he showed me how those wooden beams are connected for beauty and quality. The round beams are well joined together and each beam is carved in some animal themes for the luck of the owners of the house. The house has three levels; the first and third floors are used for storage of their crops; squashes, sweet potatoes, rice and some other dry goods lying around the corners of the room.

The second floor contains their bedrooms. They have old style of cooking stove that burns wood and when I arrived at their house the husband was chopping his wood and splitting the dry bamboos into small pieces for use of the wood stove. The wife was picking the okras whose vines climb high and wild to all different directions on the nearby trees. At her age she is still energetic and actively involved in all the labors of the land as well as all the house chores. They married more than fifty years ago and they have five children; all of whom now work and live in Hangzhou. The oldest son came to America and finished his medical school and got his degree as a urologist and is now chief of the urology department in a Hangzhou hospital. Another son is a mathematician and a daughter is a teacher.

Before I left their house I asked if I could take some more pictures of them and a pig they raise at the back of the main house. They were happy to pose for me and I took the opportunity to take photos of their pig and its surroundings. Next day they invited my sister and I for lunch at their house and we all helped and cooked the lunch together. We had a happy meal with the humble old couple and during the meal they told us more stories about their life and their proud sons and daughters.

Evening came and I heard music. I looked over to the window of my rented room and there was a group of people young and old alike lined up together for evening dancing with modern music and loudspeakers on the sides. “ How wonderful life is here!” I said to myself. My sister and I walked down to the square and mixed in with the villagers and danced freely until the stars gathered densely above our heads and I looked up to the distance; the silhouette of the mountain against the deep dark of the evening sky, it was a tranquil mood wrapped around the village as all the dancers spread out of view toward their homes; suddenly it was very quiet not even a dog barked. Every soul reached to a satisfaction of the day and with a hope for tomorrow and the village finally came to sleep in peace.

Yao Kou is beautiful, not only because of the land and the mountains but mostly are the people who live here. They are humble, genuine, hard workers and they are happy in their hearts for what they do and with the land they love.